Saturday, August 16, 2008

Probate Judge Suspended

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct suspended Judge James Blackstock, removing him from the bench indefinitely while an investigation continues into sexual harassment claims made by three juvenile probation department employees.

Copies of the charges show 14 allegations between July 2007 and June 2008 by three women including allegations that Blackstock harassed them by kissing them, touching their breasts, touching them under their shirt and sending pornographic images to them by e-mail and cell phone..

Blackstock has been a county court at law and probate judge since the court was created in 1987.

Full Article and Source:
BREAKING NEWS: Blackstock suspended

See also:
Blackstock will receive pay but can't hear cases;
In documents filed by Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, Blackstock is charged with 14 counts of official oppression. The sexual harassment acts for which he is accused span from July 2007 to June of this year.
Brazoria judge accused of sex harassment suspended

Judge Accused Of Sexual Harassment

Blackstock suspended from bench

Battle Over Living Will

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court could decide this month if the hospital can take a 97-year-old woman off life support over the objections of her only child.

The neurological consultant says there's no sign of brain activity.
The daughter says her mother raised an eyebrow and moved her toes when asked; she twitched her mouth when a niece was mentioned and gave a little sneer at the name of someone they dislike.

Courtroom battles over when to end someones life typically drag on because a patient didn't leave any written instructions. But Dorothy prepared nearly every legal document available to spell out her wishes, long before she entered the hospital in November with dehydration and a urinary tract infection.

In 2005, she designated Ianthe as her health care proxy with power of attorney, giving her daughter the legal right to make life-or-death decisions for her.

At the same time, Dorothy wrote out a living will, instructing that she be taken off life support if faced with an "irreversible mental or physical condition with no reasonable expectation of recovery or of regaining a meaningful quality of life."

But neither measure has untangled the legal and ethical questions that have followed in the seven months since she fell into a coma.

After Ianthe refused to remove her mother's ventilator, the hospital petitioned the state Supreme Court in March to assign a different guardian for Dorothy. A judge placed Dorothy's care under the guardianship of Catholic Family Center, but the court has given Ianthe until Friday to file an appeal.

The debate boils down to whether Dorothy can ever recover and who should decide and carry out her wishes.

Full Article and Source:
Daughter battles hospital over comatose Rochester woman's living will

Friday, August 15, 2008

Minister Indicted

Cops: He took $200,000 from incapacitated
A Presbyterian minister who oversaw the financial affairs of incapacitated individuals and was later accused of stealing their money has been ordered to surrender his license to practice social work.

In 2006, the Rev. Brian C. Swedberg, 53, of Toms River was indicted on 17 counts of theft, three counts of false swearing, two counts of contempt of court and one count of misapplication of entrusted property.

Authorities have said Swedberg stole more than $200,000 from 20 people whose financial affairs he was appointed to oversee.

Of those people, 19 were incapacitated senior citizens, and one was a juvenile over whose trust fund Swedberg had legal oversight.

Swedberg had been appointed guardian of the affairs of various incapacitated people by the surrogate's office beginning in 1994. Moran took office as surrogate in 2003 and soon after became suspicious of Swedberg because it appeared he had been commingling funds.

The Probate Court removed Swedberg from all fiduciary offices held at the time, including guardianship of 11 individuals and administrator of two decedent's estates. All accountings submitted to the court by Swedberg for approval were held pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Full Article and Source:
Minister told to surrender his social-work license

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Probate Farce

Register of Probate John Buonomo was caught on camera taking change out of copying machines in his office and another machine in the register of deeds office across the hall. He has been charged with more than 30 criminal offenses. He has been put on unpaid administrative leave pending a trial, and presumably authorities have taken away his keys to the copy machines.

Petty thievery is an outrage in any case, and doubly so when the accused thief is already being paid more than $100,000 a year by the taxpayers of Middlesex County.

Here's the farce: Buonomo is up for re-election in November and, so far, says he doesn't intend to withdraw. And he has no opponent, in either the Democratic primary or the general election.

Full Article and Source:
Editorial: Another farce for Middlesex County

See also:
Prosecutors are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to investigating charges that Middlesex County Register of Probate John Buonomo stole thousands of dollars from copy and change machines inside his Cambridge office building.
DA: Investigation into elected official ‘continuing’

The Middlesex register of probate is due in court on burglary and theft charges after prosecutors said he was caught on camera stealing thousands of dollars from copy and change machines.
DA: Register of Probate caught stealing from office machines

John Buonomo, the register of probate for Middlesex County, has been arrested for allegedly repeatedly stealing public money from copy and cash machines located in the Registry of Deeds.
Middlesex register of probate arrested for alleged thefts

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Making Out Like Bandits

Probate Judge Joseph Secola is quoted as saying:

He has to "get on my knees and beg lawyers to take the cases that come before his court."

"They are not getting rich on that any more than you get rich on jury duty."

Rick Green says "This is hogwash."

Connecticut has more than 100 probate judges — some earning full benefits and $40,000 or $50,000 a year for part-time work. Probate is a world where being a "court-appointed" lawyer in a case with even a meager estate can mean years of profitable legal work, including the chance to bill at hundreds of dollars an hour.


* Margot Claus, an elderly and sick German woman brought to Connecticut by a distant relative, now back home in Germany, was recently ordered to pay for a lawyer who should never have been appointed in the first place, who didn't even support her desire to return home.

* Paul Czepiga, a lawyer who served as a court-appointed conservator in the long-running case of a Lucille Follacchio, has collected more than $77,000 in fees. There are additional pending bills for another $21,000, according to Legal Aid lawyers challenging Czepiga's fees. His fees include charges of $19 to fax letters and send an e-mail.

A Legal Aid lawyer in Hartford said:

"If you stop the gouging, you stop making this such a lucrative place for people to operate in," "You have these little old ladies … they get their little tiny stash and it gets gobbled up. You are charging attorney's fees to manage a little old lady's life when she is under lock and key."

"People are making out like bandits. It's acceptable practice."

Full Article and Source:
Probate Courts Need Reformer As Leader
Rick Green's column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at